How to Write Headlines so Irresistible that Big-Money Clients are Begging You to Write for Them

Carol Tice

Do I have your attention now?

That headline was pretty grabby, huh. Sort of made you have to click on it to find out how to get good clients.

That’s the magic of a well-constructed headline. It works like a magnet to suck readers onto your blog — and not just any readers, but exactly the readers you wanted. The ones who’re interested in just what you have to offer.

If you know how to write a compelling headline, it can also make editors love your query letter.

It can make businesses read your emailed letter of introduction and give you call.

Great headlines get you good-paying writing gigs.

Then, when other businesses and publications see the headlines you wrote for your clients, they call you up. They can’t wait to have you bring your writing savvy over to their website.

You’re done marketing your writing business. Your strong headlines do the job for you.

Why doesn’t everybody write great headlines?

It’s sort of an art form unto itself.

Lots of us who came up through journalism and newspapers weren’t trained to write headlines. That’s an editor’s job, we were told.

Others have been grabbing titles off content-mill dashboards, where the headline is pre-written by the SEO department.

Bottom line: Lots of writers don’t have any experience or training in how to write headlines. And their careers are suffering as a result.

I have reviewed hundreds of writers’ blogs, and I can tell you, bad headlines are an epidemic. I scan a typical blog, and I can’t even figure out the topic. Nothing makes me want to click through and read more. I’m not surprised when I see there are no subscribers, no comments, and nothing is getting sold.

So if you learn to write good headlines, you can really stand out.

What’s wrong with most writers’ headlines?

Three quick headline-improvement tips:

  1. Use key words. Headlines like “Watch out for the red flags,” or “Another day” (both ones I’ve recently read) don’t tell me what the post is about, or who it is for. So search engines don’t find it when I search on what I want to know. And I don’t read it.
  2. Tell me your topic. What will I learn about if I read your post? Your headline needs to tell me, so I’ll want to click over and read it.
  3. Leave a little mystery. The headline of this post told you there’s a way to write headlines that will bring you great clients, but it didn’t tell you exactly how.  You needed to read the post to find out.

I have a confession to make.

I didn’t write that headline — Jon Morrow did.

Jon is one of the best headline writers around. He wrote the Headline Hacks report on how to create sure-to-go-viral headlines that Copyblogger uses as a guide for its writers.

His blog posts often get 1,000 retweets or more. Maybe you read How to Quit Your Job, Move to Paradise and Get Paid to Change the World, or A 7-Step Guide to Mind Control: How to Quit Begging and Make People Want to Help You. Yeah. That guy.

What’s the best headline you’ve seen lately? Leave a comment and share.

27 Comments

  1. Marjorie

    Maybe these sites will be of some help if you are an experienced writer. But i cannot guarantee that they will pay more than text broker, they are on the same level there. Anyway you could try to check out the associatedcontent, constant-content and demandstudio. The pay usually ranges between $5 and $50 per article depending on the site. All the best in writing,

    • Carol Tice

      Marjorie, those aren’t my idea of “big-money” rates…and you don’t need to know how to write headlines for them, as the site’s SEO department usually does that for them. We’re talking about getting $1 a word type markets…which aren’t available on a mass-content site anywhere, but is the type of work you get when you actively prospect for your own clients.

  2. Cathie Ericson

    Could NOT resist sharing this one from Business Insider today: Tanning Salons, Like Teenage Boys, Will Completely Lie To Get Teenage Girls Into Their Beds

    • Carol Tice

      Love it! Others should feel free to post favorite headlines as well.

  3. Mike L.

    The good paid websites related to technology that don’t require you to have an ITT degree, years in the IT industry, tech writing experience related to instruction booklets, or history developing programs, don’t even respond or have submission guidelines on their sites. I’m sure the writers on Mashable, TechCrunch, 9to5mac, MacRumors, Apple Insider, all make a killing but they are their own little niche circle where they don’t take any outsiders in or give anyone else a chance. The less popular tech sites use pro blogger and stuff like that to advertise when they do hire, but they get like a thousand applicants for each position.

    I write for Trainsignal as well:
    http://www.trainsignal.com/blog/author/mike-lata

    But it takes them forever to respond to me via email or publish anything or pay me despite the fact they pay $100 per 1k article and have a huge budget, they don’t seem to respect their writers very much. Itsnso depressing because i still live at home due to how little per month I make and these start up sites constantly closing down, changing ownerships, or not wanting anymore content.

    • Carol Tice

      Hint…your ideal client may not be a website.

    • Carol Tice

      Mike, I’d love to answer all this in a blog comment…but there’s just too much here! I taught a 4-week bootcamp with 4 hours of material and accompanying handouts on how to avoid scams and find legitimate online markets, how to identify editors on masthead-less websites and online pubs, how to market yourself in social media and connect with editors…you might want to check it out in the Den.

      But 60 days isn’t a terrifically long pay cycle for a magazine, BTW. But writing without a contract, I wish you the best of luck ever getting paid, since they’re under no legal obligation to pay you anything ever. And they’re based in Brazil? If they pay you in February you should thank your lucky stars, since you’d never be able to pursue it legally.

      I’ve had ones that pay in 5 months, a schedule I like to call “half-past when the messiah comes.” And I’m sure you’re not surprised to hear I dropped them.

      It also sounds like maybe you’re writing a lot of articles and submitting them rather than getting them assigned. The latter tends to work out better.

      You also seem like you have a basic problem: You want to write about what you want to write about…which is a good thing to do on your own blog. But writing for pay is about writing what the client wants written. That’s how you get articles accepted.

    • Mike L.

      Well the thing about it is that I have missed feelings. I mean if the magazine wasn’t legit wouldn’t one of the writers have by now pouted a negative blog somewhere or a review or even a whole site exposing it? They have been around for a few months now. Also, the editor who I talk to does have an editorial or opening remark in every issue that is very professional sounding. However, why would Apple and amazon not approve them and only Zinio? Also, why no agreements or contracts (avoid taxes?). Also, why no Linkedin page and why none of the writers I found on Linkedin ever mention the publication. I only found one guy that did:
      http://bakarichavanu.wordpress.com/2011/12/07/im-now-writing-for-apple-magazine/

      When I tried to add him on Linkedin he refused for some reason. Again I have real mixed feelings. Also the rate is 10 cents per word which is fine for now ffor me as long as I get paid.

    • Carol Tice

      Thinking you mean mixed feelings?

      If a business has only been around a few months, there just may not yet have been time for them to screw everyone and for the negative comments to start circulating. This is why I don’t write for startups (unless I’ve just seen their press release about the big venture-capital money they just landed), especially ones from another country. Unless they’d like to send a 100% up-front deposit. Then I’m all ears.

      But I feel like we’ve gotten off the topic…of how writing awesome headlines will help you move up from these bottom-feeder and low-pay type situations. Hopefully I’ll see you on the call today!

  4. Mike L.

    Sorry for some typos, I’m on an iPad. This isn’t an indication of my actual writing skills on my iMac with a real word processor.

    • Carol Tice

      Maybe if you…pitched them stronger headlines you’d get better responses? 😉

      Not sure why you’re focused on a lot of unpaid or low-paid websites…there are lots of other good-paying markets out there.

  5. Mike L.

    I’ve been trying to find my own clients on linkedin and by going to the big sites ir blogs like 9to5mac, gizmo do, TechCrunch, etc. And none of them ever respond or give me the time of day. I have a xouple stories of over 1k words just waiting for someone to read them and publish them, but they won’t even look. These stories are unique as well and not covered bynall sites. Whats so said is that many of these sites don’t even have contact info or tell you whe to or who to pitch to or any submission guidelines. How do they ever recruit new talent? One guy on linedin was so selfish he stated that he wanted me to get him some apple code ir images that are secret and only employees know. It was all abot him and me me me. He want an editor but some PR drone though I was hoping would be a bridge.

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